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Music Reviews

Voices in My Lunchbox [coll] – [Plug Research]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, A Library

Plug Research returns with what is surely one of their most interesting projects to date. “Voices in My Lunchbox” features four tracks–no, wait–four songs (my god, when was the last time we used that term in electronic music?) from a variety of producers, each exploring the possibilities of vocals in an electronic context. First up is Carmen Tejada, grafting operatic vocals onto some minimal electronic beats and jazzy electric guitar. Next is Quarks, with not much more than a snatch of koto and a metronomic ticking to accompany some whispery female vocals in Japanese. Smyglyssna and Cornelia open Side 2 with a track that begins with an insectoid buzzing and ends with a long, low hum. And finally there’s Kit Clayton, offering up some abstract dubbiness along with slurry vocals from Mike Donovan. I’m not really sure what all these people are singing about but it’s sounds good to me. Anxiously awaiting Vol. 2…

Super Rap [coll] – [Landspeed]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Hip Hop

What we’re gonna do right here is go back…way back…back into time. Back to Harlem, circa 1979, where a new musical form was about to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of the 70’s disco inferno. That new sound was called hip hop, and helping to document its birth was an independent record label called P&P Records, run by Peter Brown & Patrick Adams. Having experienced a modest amount of success in the disco market, they were perfectly situated to capitalize on this newest underground sound. The P&P tracks collected here are about as “old school” as “old school” gets; Chic’s “Good Times” rhythm even gets an airing on the track by Sicle Cell & Rhapazooty. Other tracks delve deeper into rap’s disco influences, particularly the instrumentals by Super Jay and Cloud One. And the futuristic, proto-electro side shows up on tracks by Troy Rainey and Naomi. All in all, though, this collection is about a time when rap was FUN. Drop the needle on any track and you’ll soon be wanting to throw your hands in the air, and wave ’em like ya just don’t care!

Stroboscopica Vol. 2 [coll] – [Plastic Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Soundtrack

Plastic Records continues to document the 70’s output of the Italian Cometa production music library with this second volume in the STROBOSCOPICA series. Like most production music, the tracks herein are short, simple, and indexed by instrumentation, tempo, and style. While certainly not in the same league as the full-length film scores of Morricone, Allesandroni, et. al., the music here is functional and fun. More reminiscent of 70’s television than anything else, the somewhat cliched compositions evoke suspense, anxiety, mystery, action, romance, and the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Spike’s Choice [coll] – [Desco]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Soul

DESCO. Need I say more? In little over a year, Desco have established themselves as a hallmark of quality when it comes to funk and soul music. Now, here comes the first Desco compilation, and it’s a MONSTER, collecting all the limited- edition 7″ singles they’ve released to date. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear this was a collection of classic 70’s tracks…IT’S THAT GOOD! All your favorite Desco artists are here, plus a few you might not have heard before. (Be sure to check out the sitar-funk of Ravi Harris and the new tracks from Lee Fields’ upcoming album.) 100% heavy, heavy funk!

Negativland – ?No Business? – [Seeland]

Hunter Gatherer   7/5/2005   A Library, CD

The Bay Area’s Negativland celebrate their 25th year as a recording entity with a special enhanced CD containing a video, a 56-page essay, and a whoopee cushion. (The latter two are not included in the station’s copy.)

The subtext of the CD and the straight up text of the essay and whoopee cushion is the conflict between the common cultural domain, copyright ownership, and technology that makes sharing copies of music and video easy. Copyright infringement is a topic that Negativland is no stranger to, due to their release entitled ‘U2.’ And with the recent Supreme Court decision about file sharing, this release couldn’t be timelier.

Negativland use their trademark humor to address these issues as they take hammer and tong and editing tools to found sound, artfully splicing it to crate new (and often hilarious) meanings.

1. Old Is New – cuts up Because by The Beatles and lets us know that the arguments and controversies we are being fed are the same old ones (previously used against cassette taping, VHS recording, and lately Google Print) with a new face

2. No Business – not even Ethel Merman is sacred to these technology savvy pranksters as the lyrics twist into ‘There’s no business like stealing!?

3. Downloading – the ‘serious? piece, featuring a hopelessly square Michael Green (in Al Gore mode) talking about downloading mp3s and bringing to mind 50’s scare films like Reefer Madness as sound bites float around his speech like angry hornets.

4. Favorite Things – one of my daughter’s favorite songs becomes a paean to light bondage and nose cream. A vast improvement, frankly.

5. God Bull – After Ethel Merman it is a short step to God, Who is instructed to commit suicide.

6. Keep Rollin’ – a commercial that had the misfortune of containing the word ‘reefer?; the least funny pot humor since ‘You put your weed in there? from SNL about 10 years ago.

7. Piece A Pie – hilarious cut up radio play from the 50’s that makes perfect sense within its paranoid, circular 3:00 a.m. logic.

8. New Is Old – back to The Beatles; in sonata form this would be the recitative.

9. No Business Again – Judy Garland pre-empts Negativland by rearranging the lyrics herself

Check out the video called Gimme The Mermaid. It starts out normally enough with a cat in a suit brandishing a red stick. Then Ariel, The Little Mermaid, appears with a voiceover provided by a Disney exec who threatens and berates the listener throughout. Then it morphs into Gimme Gimme Gimme by Black Flag.

Throughout this CD you can feel the strength of their conviction. And with the ridiculous copyright laws that were passed to protect Disney and other corporations, I am inclined to agree with them. But being passionate about something doesn’t automatically mean that they are right. I’m looking forward to reading the essay that comes with this CD.
–Hunter Gatherer

Ropeladder 12 [coll] – [Mush]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Hip Hop

The first full-length release on the eclectic Mush record label is an adventurous collection of underground hip hop, featuring mostly unknown artists and DJ’s. A wordy collection, to be sure, as the nine pages of lyrics in the CD booklet can attest, but these words are closer to poetry than your average hip hop record. Musically you can expect lots of jazz and soundtrack samples, plus an ample helping of turntablist trickery. Lots of variety from track to track, yet it all sounds cohesive in the end. Very impressive.

Roots of Dub Funk 3 [coll] – [Tanty Records]

Rococo   7/5/2005   CD, Reggae

Come again mi selectah! Kelvin Richard presents chapter 3 in the ongoing compilation series “inspired by” the work of his own recording alias, the Dub Funk Association. Don’t expect to find much funk in this set, but rest assured there is plenty of dub and rootical riddims. Highlights include: some extremely tweaked production from the UK’s Alpha & Omega on “Jerusalem”; the legendary Prince Alla vocalizing over Jah Warrior’s “Our Father Dub” (check the Dixieland-style horn solo!); Mr. Dub Funk Association himself setting the standard with his own contribution, “Babylon Kingdom”; Zion Train’s DJ Perch giving the people what they want on “Edutainment Dub”; and finally, some squelchy electronidub from the Vibronics on “Natty Riddim”. Twelve exclusive dub plates in all, enough to hold you over until the arrival of chapter 4.

Poor Boy [coll] – [Songlines Recordings]

Rococo   7/5/2005   A Library, CD

It’s Nick Drake covers, but totally out of left field! Songlines and producer Tony Reif have corralled an impressive roster of jazz/avant-garde talent from the Pacific Northwest to pay tribute to this legendary British singer/songwriter. And the result is something quite haunting, yet familiar: old songs completely reimagined and sounding fresher than ever in this new context. Though jazz is the central pulse, many other elements are woven into the mix, including a bit of electronica, psych, folk, and rock. Personal favorites include two tracks featuring the sensual vocals of Kate Hammett-Vaughan (“Clothes of Sand”, “Poor Boy”) and a 14-minute improvisational piece that isn’t technically a cover, but more of a tribute (“For Nick/Horn/Know”). Totally unique and successful on its own terms, this is a covers album that should appeal to both fans and non-fans of the original artist.

Phil Pratt Thing [coll] – [Pressure Sounds]

Rococo   7/5/2005   12-inch, Reggae

You may not be familiar with the name of Phil Pratt, but you will certainly be familiar with some of the reggae artists he produced: Ken Boothe, Big Youth, The Heptones, and Dennis Brown, just to name a few. This latest Pressure Sounds compilation rounds up some of the best work from Pratt, a publicity-shy producer who never really got the attention he deserved. Several of the tracks on this excellent retrospective are multiple variations on the same riddim. For example, Al Campbell’s soulful vocal on “Going the Wrong Way” is followed by the “Discomix” dub version, then a DJ toast over the tune by Big Youth. For “Talk About Love” Pat Kelly & Dillinger team up on the SAME version and the results are exhilarating… easily worth the price of the album. Pratt’s story is the typical one of record company ripoffs. He left the music business in the late 80’s and today runs a cafe in London. What a shame.

Osmosis [coll] – [Leaf Recordings]

Rococo   7/5/2005   A Library, CD

Leaf is another one of those genre-defying U.K. labels, like Fat Cat or Lo Recordings, that operates at the fringes of modern electronic music. And the music on OSMOSIS, a budget-priced preview of forthcoming Leaf releases, is appropriately hard to categorize. As a sweeping generalization, though, most of the tracks here feature downtempo or subdued beats, and offer more than just electronics, whether it be live instruments or samples or vocals. No particular tracks stand out from the others… it’s pure quality through and through. Put this album on …relax…and let the music flow selectively through your auditory membranes.

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